The decision to exclude Nigeria from international basketball competitions for two years has been termed as “heart-wrenching” by Nigerian basketballer Upe Atosu.
Atosu and her teammates will miss the Women’s World Cup in Australia in September, as revealed by Nigeria’s ministry of youth and sports and confirmed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The ministry stated in a letter that the decision was made due to “the never-ending drama that has afflicted and virtually decimated basketball” in the West African country.
“[This] will enable Nigeria to revamp the sports from the grassroots as well as domestic leagues which have become moribund,” the letter added.
The Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) will be abolished, and an interim committee will be formed to oversee the game’s management in Nigeria.
“Sport is not [a] puzzle that you have to crush what’s working to fix what’s not working,” Atosu, who helped Nigeria win the 2017 African title, posted on Twitter.
It is believed that the decision was taken to avert an agreement by both Nigeria’s men’s and women’s teams to stage a protest at international tournaments.
Ministry authorities are also disappointed that in the federation’s continuing leadership turmoil, players have opted to favor one side over another.
Government influence in the operation of national teams and the sport is strictly prohibited under the rules of Fiba, the sport’s world regulatory body.
The government’s stance could result in Fiba suspending Nigeria from international basketball, effectively excluding their national teams, club teams, and officials from all international games and meetings.
Following a contentious election six years ago, the NBBF has been plagued by a lengthy leadership crisis, with two parallel boards vying for the federation’s leadership.
The fight for control of Nigerian basketball has hindered preparations for international events and damaged the country’s domestic leagues on numerous occasions.
The dispute has also impacted the salary of Nigeria women’s head coach Otis Hughley, who guided the team to Tokyo 2020 qualification, back-to-back African crowns, and 2022 World Cup qualification, including a historic triumph over France.
D’Tigress players are also embroiled in a legal battle with the NBBF and the Japanese sports ministry for unpaid bonuses and organizational concerns during the Tokyo Olympics.
Musa Kida was re-elected president of the NBBF in January, and FIBA recognized the result in March.
Despite the sport’s seemingly interminable problems, numerous foreign-born players and a large diaspora community located in the United States have been persuaded to play for Nigeria’s men’s and women’s teams.
This has led to recent success at the African Basketball Championships, with the men’s team winning in 2015 and the women’s team winning three straight in 2017, 2019, and 2021.
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